Saturday, 30 April 2011

Doing the Wylam Walk.

If you don't want to pay two quid to visit the cottage, you can always spend the cash on the very nice ginger cake at the cafe behind

Is this the oldest tower signal box in the world? I was told during the walk that it probably is.

Spot the Kingfisher!

30th April. I was leading the RSPB Local Group walk today. The walks are all arranged to take place locally and are aimed to show participants the birdlife and other nature that is within their own vicinity. They continue to be well attended by members of the public and very successful. I have found a little niche here that helps me continue to put something back into my hobby whilst encouraging others and enjoying doing so. I am a little less inclined to bird watch in larger groups these days, but I really enjoy the involvement in these walks. I enjoy watching others discover elements of nature that are perhaps new to them. Many are surprised at just what can be found locally. No one could have failed to enjoy the walk in such surroundings and such fine weather today. I began by explaining just how important bird song and calls would be to enjoying bird watching to the full and so it proved today. I thank my colleagues for helping ensure that the walks continue to be well planned, advertised and organised in a professional manner. Weather-wise today’s walk was in stark contrast to the walk that ended last years programme and which was undertaken in freezing conditions otherwise it was conducted in a similar fashion. I think we gained two new members today which in itself makes the effort worthwhile. I think anyone that reads my blog will understand that I dislike the closed shop attitude that exists within some birding circles.

The butterflies weren’t ignored today and we found Small White, Green Veined White, Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. The Orange Tips were around in large numbers.

Having felt the cold breeze as I approached the village from the road bridge, we were soon warming up in more sheltered conditions along the old railway track heading towards Points Bridge (apparently also known as Hagg Bridge, Wylam Railway Bridge and Half Moon Bridge). The bridge was initially planned to have three spans built upon piers, but this was stopped because of concern about the mine workings under the river. Thus the bridge became a proto-type for the Tyne Bridge and Sydney harbour Bridge. Song from Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap was filling the air. The Blackcaps were close, but proved difficult to view in the now thickly covered hedges and trees. Participants began to realise why I had underlined the need to ‘listen’. The song of Wrens dominated everything else at times. Finches seen during the walk where, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Bullfinch. There seemed to be few tits about, but Great Tit was heard and Blue Tit eventually seen.

We looked for Kingfisher from Points Bridge, with no luck. A distant sighting of a single Goosander was made. It seemed that the Goosanders where further up or down river today. Mallard were around in some numbers and distant Swallows could be seen. Closer views were obtained of both Swallow and Sand Martin later into the walk.

A Red Kite was seen by all as it flew from north to south of the river, and a Sparrowhawk was seen by the lucky few as it flew low through the trees towards the pond. The pond itself held Tufted Duck, Mallard, Moorhen and Coot. Surprisingly the Little Grebe wasn’t seen or heard. By now the air was thick with insects and the planned stop for lunch was put off until a little later. Two Jays where seen as they flew towards the Spetchells. The Spetchells are the largest area of chalk habitat in Northumberland and the plant life here is quite special and attractive to a wide range of butterflies. I understand that the view from these hills is quite spectacular as you look down the Tyne Valley. The chalk hills are not a natural habitat, but waste from an ICI factory which closed down in 1963. Perhaps this is a good omen for the future in that it shows how nature can return to our industrial wastelands. It’s an area I need to take a closer look at in the future. Time didn’t allow that today.

Both Grey Heron and Cormorant were seen flying close to the River Tyne. Thanks to a friend in the group who knows the patch well, we had a good sighting of a pair of Common Whitethroat. The walk we completed is regularly walked by members of Wylam Bird Group. I’d gained some information from the groups report so I offer my thanks.

We found a pair of Common Sandpiper on our return towards Wylam village. This was a new tick for the year for me at least. As we came towards the end of the walk we watched the pair of Dippers.

Instead of heading straight for the railway station I took a walk along to George Stephenson’s Cottage. I’d been taken aback when I had looked earlier on the internet and found the cottage to be surrounded by trees. I was a youngster when I had last visited and remember the area was in the main open space. This little detour brought a nice pair of Goosander on the River, a Red Kite being mobbed by a Sparrowhawk and a couple of both Lapwing and Oystercatcher. The Blackcaps remained as illusive as ever. I rounded of what had been a really enjoyable day in the company of an Earl Grey and a piece of very nice ginger cake. I recommend that you visit the cottage if only to taste the cakes!

The list for the walk had come to forty and with the added detour at the end forty-two. I’d added both Red Kite and Common Sandpiper to my year list and I hope that everyone went home smiling.

I did note that one of the pubs has a fine selection of real ales. I have a good friend who may like the idea of a birding and real ale visit at some point.:-)

1 comment:

  1. Yeah the walks with the Local RSPB group are very welcoming to anyone. It is also most suitable for those who are new to birding!